RIP – Ann Sayer, Long Distance Walker Supreme and the first pioneering female Centurion

Given our club’s proud history of long distance walking it seems fitting and appropriate to post this tribute to the remarkable Ann Sayer, the first female Centurion, written by Gail Elrick of the Long Distance Walkers Association. Thanks to Chris Bolton, a longstanding member of the LWDA, for bringing our attention to this sad loss.

Long Distance Walkers Association. The LDWA is an Association of people with the common interest of walking long distances in rural, urban, mountainous or moorland areas.

Ann Sayer MBE (LDWA no. 646) Vice President of the LDWA

born 16.10.36 died 15.4.2020

Ann died on Wednesday, April 15. She had been in the local hospital for nearly 2 weeks. She was admitted because of breathing difficulties, a problem that had affected her for some months. Also she had recently undergone an above the knee amputation of one leg and the remaining leg was causing problems. However she remained incredibly cheerful and positive throughout and had adapted to life in a residential home. Fortunately her window in the home gave a view of Bushy Park (she refused offers of bigger rooms to keep this view) and she recently took delivery of a second mobility scooter (the first having been returned as it was not fast enough).

This ability to remain positive and determined marked the lady who did so much to promote walking and the MBE, awarded to her in 2005, was for just this achievement.

Her first sporting love was actually mountaineering and her first competitive sporting activity was rowing. The latter began when she was in University and led to her selection for the GB Eights Team that rowed in the European Championships. Walking began in earnest with the completion in 1973 of the Long Mynd Hike (after which she joined LDWA) and in 1974 she did her first LDWA 100, the Peakland 100.

At this time she also began race walking. Unlike the LDWA where there were no restrictions on female participation, race walking restricted women to short distances. But this did not deter Ann competing in races not open to women and in 1977 Ann (and her friend Di Pegg) were allowed to race walk in the Bristol 100 and they both finished. Thus Ann became the first female Centurion (100 miles within 24 hours).

Further triumphs continued including in 1979, with an LDWA support Team, completing the 3 Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) walking 420 miles in 7 days and 31 minutes (a new record).

Land’s End to John O’Groats then followed, also with an LDWA support Team completing a route of 840 miles in 13 days, 17 hours and 42 minutes. Another record and entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Many other Challenge Events and 100s continued, too many to list here. She also helped on numerous events and in Local Groups, served for 15 years on the NEC and was the first female Chair of the LDWA.

Remarkably these were not the only things in her life. She spent most of her working life as a geologist with BP and particularly in later years she was heavily involved in the life of the local community including leading walks for Walking for Health, acting as a volunteer guide at Strawberry Hill House and working in the visitor information centre in Bushy Park.

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